Part 2: Think, Feel, Do. My framework for transitioning into the future of the power industry.
by Michael McNair on Jul 05, 2022
This is Part 2 of the Think, Feel, Do article written by Yes Energy’s Founder and CEO, Michael McNair. Michael founded Yes Energy in 2008 with four like-minded industry peers who shared a vision of saying ‘yes’ to customers and the needs of the nodal power market. That vision blossomed into the company that Yes Energy is today - the leading nodal market data solutions provider.
In the first part of this series, I reviewed a bit of Yes Energy’s history, and our philosophy when it comes to our job of supporting the important work that our customers do on a daily basis. As we move into the future of this exciting and dynamic industry, what I want all of our customers, and the markets at large, to FEEL is that we are a part of your team, and a partner that you can both rely on and trust. In this second part, I will outline what I believe we will all need to THINK about and DO in order for us to transition successfully into the future.
When I started in the energy industry, back in 2001, coal comprised more than 50% of the generation stack. This was a surprise and a disappointment to me. It felt like an overwhelming hurdle to the green goals I had adopted during my idealistic college years. In recent years, that stack has changed dramatically. In 2020, coal made up only 19.3% of the generation stack. In order to reach commonly mentioned renewable and clean energy goals by 2035, that percentage needs to drop even further to 15.2%. Changing the way we power the grid is going to take some significant leadership and innovation. Most of the change that has happened so far seems to have been driven by individual corporate leaders, not by policy itself. Policymakers have really only pointed us all in the direction we need to go, but have done little to define how we get there. The 2001 version of myself would have been very discouraged by this lack of leadership. Now, I recognize that I am one of the leaders (and so are you). We don’t need the solution to be prescribed for us. The transition we need to see, whether spelled out by our policy-makers or not, is clear, and frankly, we at Yes Energy feel like we know what our contribution to the transition can be. We’re doing that with confidence that our partners in this work (mostly represented in the form of our customers) will line up beside us to deliver their contribution too. It’s almost as if we’re acting as a self-coached team right now. When you reach a certain stage as a player, you can win this way. You can inspire others this way.
So, what do I want you to THINK about in order for us to move successfully into the future? In addition to the host of innovations and improvements we need in regulations, infrastructure, and technology, right now I'd like for you to think about people. What if we engaged more people and different people in this work? All ages, all backgrounds. As an information company we are going to continue to contribute technology, and “mine” precious data that can empower all of the above activities, but we also believe we can lead the industry in terms of the people we tap to help us with this work.
To be more specific, in order to transition into a new energy industry successfully, it will take all of us thinking about what data, tools, features, and models we need to create for this next generation of grid and power markets. What we all need to do is be the leaders of the next wave of the power industry, and share the responsibility of creating the future.
In order to accomplish this at Yes Energy, I enlisted Vice President of People Operations, April Duffey and Co-Founder and Chief Economist, Scott Holladay, to come up with the people part of our plan. First, let’s discuss what April and Scott discovered about representation in the energy industry.
Women make up 47% of the U.S. workforce, and those who identify as a race or ethnicity other than white represent 40%. For comparison, in the energy sector, women make up 32% of the workforce, and 13% of energy workers identify as other than white. Our industry has some serious work to do in order to meet even average levels of representation. Some may think that lack of diversity in the energy industry is not important, but there are many proven and studied benefits of diversity in the workplace. Diversity in viewpoint leads to more creativity, better decision making, and increased awareness of potential blind spots. In an industry requiring significant and creative innovation, we need diversity.
As part of our efforts to increase diversity in the energy industry, we've created our FutureSignals initiative; its mission is to develop the next generation of industry leaders and to impact the future of the energy industry. For our inaugural effort, we are proud to announce that we are partnering with the University of Houston to offer three new full-ride scholarships. These scholarships will be awarded to students from diverse backgrounds, who are interested in electric power markets, have strong grades, and are completing relevant majors. In addition to the scholarship program, we are partnering with universities to ensure that an applicable energy curriculum is available.
Additionally, All Yes Energy departments are hosting one or more interns this summer in our Boulder office. To make this opportunity available to a wider group, we are offering housing at the University of Colorado for out-of-state students participating in our intern program. This program began four weeks ago, and the office is buzzing with curiosity and eagerness to learn and solve problems.
We are going to continue our work on the technology and people fronts. Interns and scholarships will be an important part of that. So, what would I like you to DO? Please send scholarship or intern referrals to firstname.lastname@example.org, and create awareness of these opportunities among your network. Additionally, we need industry mentors for our interns. I would also encourage you to consider what you might be able to do to foster further diversity in your organization, and the industry. Small changes can begin to make a big difference. If you would like to brainstorm on how you can start to take action, reach out to email@example.com. By developing and empowering a diverse and innovative workforce, we can all help to power the energy industry’s future.
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